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Ethernet — a networking protocol name for the ages

Michelson, Morley, and Metcalfe

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Life’s highest calling

Twenty years on, after a decade at the 3Com helm and another as a paper-chewing tech columnist, Metcalfe has transformed himself yet again. Today, he’s a venture capitalist, a return to what he sees as life’s “highest calling.”

“Technological innovation is the source of all progress,” he says in a History Museum video beamed at his audience on Tuesday night. “It’s the highest calling. Democracy. Freedom. Prosperity. It all stems from technological innovation.”

His audience laughed. But Metcalfe is nothing but serious. His aim is to solve the world’s energy problems using the lessons of internet openness. “The world needs cheap and clean energy,” he says. “Too many of the people working on this problem are luddites and greens and Marxists and politicians and lawyers and other people who don’t understand the problem. But scientists and engineers and venture capitalists can solve the problem.

“Just like it took us thirty years to break the back of the communications monopolies to build the internet, we’re going to take the next thirty years to break the back of the energy monopolies and give the world cheap and clean energy.”

The laughter continued — here and there. But there were cheers as well. Metcalfe envisions an “Enernet” — a distributed system that serves up power much like YouTube serves up videos. He’s not quite sure how it will work. But he’s sure it’s not far away. Laugh if you like. But he deserves a cheer or two for Ethernet. Or at least its name. ®

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